Motivated Warren not wavering on opportunity

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.—Graham Warren (Franklin, Tenn.) is not usually a name one may hear over the loud speaker while attending a Carson-Newman baseball game at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.

That, however, has not stopped the redshirt sophomore from impacting the Eagles in the limited opportunities the pinch hitter has received on the year. In fact, pinch hitting has been the only role Warren has played in his collegiate baseball career as the backup has not appeared in the field in any of the 29 games Carson-Newman has completed this season.

Before coming to Mossy Creek, Warren recorded a .351 batting average while hitting four home runs and driving in a team-high 39 RBIs as a senior at Franklin High School in 2013. Projected as a second-team All-American by Pro-Day Baseball prior to his senior campaign, the outfielder finished the year with All-District Honors.

A passion for the sport of baseball was evident in Warren, but the three-sport high school athlete chose to come to Carson-Newman in the summer of 2013 on a football scholarship from Eagle coach Ken Sparks following a solid three-year campaign for the Rebels.

Warren has tallied 21 tackles in 23 games in three seasons on the football field while also recording a sack against Catawba during his junior campaign. As a reserve outside linebacker, the Franklin, Tenn. native has been primarily used on special teams and has been on the leaderboard in tackles for the third phase of the game in each of his seasons a part of the football roster.

Longing to make more of his college experience and to hit the diamond once again, Warren walked on to the Carson-Newman baseball team during his second year on campus in 2015.

The dual-sport athlete redshirted in his first baseball season and used the time to get back into the baseball swing while also continuing to work with the football team for the upcoming season. Managing both baseball and football, along with his academics and social life is a challenging feat for the student athlete, but according to Warren, it is all about time management.

"The big thing about playing two sports is that there is really no offseason for you," Warren said. "You are not going to have a lot of time to prepare for each sport individually. During football season, there will be times where I get done with practice and get to come over and get some reps in the cage. During baseball season, I have to do the same thing for football by going over there and getting some reps in film study to make sure I am as prepared as I can be.

"When it comes to grades and social life, I think I have done a pretty good job because personally, my grades have not slipped much. My personal life has not slipped very much at all. It is busy, but I love that. You have to go out there and attack it every day and that's the way I look at it."

Coming off a strong summer of training where Warren gained muscle and improved his speed, the junior was expected to receive significant playing time on the defensive side of the ball for the Eagles in the fall of 2015, but ankle and hamstring injuries sidelined the linebacker for much of fall camp.

Warren again aided the role of special team's player and team leader for the Eagles on the gridiron this past fall, but the competitor was determined to see his first significant action in his collegiate career on the baseball field in the coming spring.

The redshirt sophomore did just that by recording a two-run double in his first career plate appearance against McKendree on Feb. 28. The once never-used bench player has since turned into one of the most prominent go-to pinch hitters on C-N coach Tom Griffin's squad this season.

Warren has since tallied two more hits to read a 3-for-9 line at the plate on the season with two doubles and four RBIs. The batsman is also slugging over .500 in limited at-bats.   

"It's been really nice to be getting some at-bats recently. Personally, I am just thankful for this opportunity," Warren said. "I'm thankful that coach Griffin gave me a chance. Every time I get an at-bat, it is usually in a pinch hit role. I come in fresh by not have taken a swing since before the game in warm-ups. There's a lot of pressure with pinch hitting, but again, I am just thankful that I am getting the opportunity to go out and perform for my team."

When asked what keeps the dual-sport athlete going from season-to-season and class-to-class, the answer was easy, his father.

But tragedy struck the 21-year-old's life in May 2015 when Warren received news that his father had passed away. Warren's relationship with his dad was always strong, as the student-athlete often refers to Terry Warren as his hero.  

Instead of folding in the towel on his athletic career, or college in general, Warren has since fueled his passion for both by continuing to attack his busy lifestyle full-speed and by strengthening his relationships with those closest to him.

"My dad and I had a real special relationship. He was my best friend and my biggest supporter," Warren said. "We trained together, we hit baseballs together and we did football drills together. You name it and we probably did it.

"I miss my father. There is no doubt about that. I lost him a year ago May and it definitely has changed my outlook on life. It's made me extremely thankful for the rest of my family and friends. There were two options when everything happened last year and I chose to make every goal that we set and everything that we worked for to come through. Every day is a day where I want to come closer to achieving my goals."

All in all, Warren's time at Carson-Newman is far from over and the expectations continue to remain high for the dual-sport athlete. Working hard on the athletic fields and valuing those closest to him have made for an unforgettable ride at Carson-Newman.